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Buying a commuting bike

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Article posted: 08/10/2013

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If you're just starting out as a cyclist, buying a bike can be confusing. With so many different bikes available from hundreds of manufacturers and at multiple price points, where do you start? Here's our beginners guide to the different types of bike on the market and their suitability for commuting and recreational riding.

Road bikes

If you're pushed for space or would like to combine your cycling with other forms of transport, a folding bike could be perfect for you.

Generally appearing at £400 plus, road bikes are very lightweight and usually have thin tyres and drop-handlebars. They’re great for fast paced riding, training, sportives and long road rides. They're not suitable for use off-road though and often lack the option to add mudguards or a rack, which limits their use for commuting or more general riding.

Mountain bikes

The mountain bike is the most popular type of bike on the market for a number of reasons. It can go anywhere thanks to its strong frame and wheels, powerful brakes, knobbly tyres, wide range gearing and confidence inspiring riding position. While slower than a road bike on tarmac, a mountain bike can be easily adapted for road duty by swapping to slick tyres. Add mudguards and a rack and you've got an ultra-sturdy commuter or touring bike. Decent entry level mountain bikes start at around £250-300.

Hybrid bikes

These are a cross between a road and mountain bike. They generally have the larger wheels of the road bike, with tyre widths midway between those which you’d commonly find on a road and mountain bike. This means a comfortable and fast rolling ride. Most hybrids have flat handlebars with mountain bike-style controls, giving a comfortable and relatively upright riding position. This improves visibility and ensures that your hands are always near to the brakes and gears. Hybrids often allow you to mount racks and mudguards and some come equipped with these items as standard. This makes them ideal commuting and everyday use bikes. Bikes labelled as hybrids can often be very different, with some much more akin to mountain bikes, while at the other extreme, some are effectively road bikes with flat handlebars. Good quality hybrid bikes begin at around the £250 mark.

Folding bikes

If you're pushed for space or would like to combine your cycling with other forms of transport, a folding bike could be perfect for you. They pack down small and will fit in car boots, on trains and under desks. Prices for decent quality folding bikes begin at around the £350 mark. Don't be tempted by bargain basement folding bikes though as, in the main, they're poorly designed with frustratingly difficult folding mechanisms and poor components.

 Town bikes

Upright ‘Dutch’ bikes are perfect for popping out for flattish rides or on fairly short and sedate commutes. They’re usually fitted with full mudguards and fully enclosed chains, making them ideal if you want to cycle in everyday clothes. Town bikes often come fitted with racks, dynamo lights and sometimes an integral lock. This makes them complete ready-to-roll packages for relaxed short-hop town riding. Brakes and gears tend to be simple and enclosed, making for a low maintenance and reliable ride.

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